LEAN UX: A recipe for speed and innovation | Lean Apps GmbH

LEAN UX: A recipe for speed and innovation

Get rid of all the waste in your work processes

14 April 2018

The ultimate goal of Lean UX is to deliver a great user experience. It’s a highly practical technique that takes into account three key Lean principles:

First, it helps you remove all the waste from your UX design process. It eliminates heavy documentation and focuses only on creating the design deliverables you need.

Second, it brings a higher level of collaboration and transparency in your process. It even drives developers and engineers to get involved in the design process.

Third, it focuses on obtaining early feedback through experimentation. Instead of relying on a single person’s decision, you test and measure at each step to meet your goals.



What is Lean UX?

Lean UX is more than just a practical technique. It is a mindset shift. It breaks down all the barriers that create silos in a business. It pushes business and technology teams to sit down and create the best possible solutions.

In essence, Lean UX is about overcoming the fear of showing work that you perceive to be ugly or unfinished. It’s about gaining confidence in your ability as a team.

It’s about working towards building a product or service that will require multiple iterations. There is hardly a chance that you will get it right in the first go.

Lean UX is the practice of bringing the true nature of a product to light faster, in a collaborative, cross-functional way that reduces the emphasis on thorough documentation while increasing the focus on building a shared understanding of the actual product experience being designed.


Core Elements of Lean UX

Here is a toolkit that will help you put together the practice of Lean UX in your company:

1) Start with creating cross-functional teams.

A cross-functional team must have members from every department that are involved in creating your product. Be it software, business, design or product, every team member should be involved from the very start of the project.

Reason? Collaboration becomes a lot easier. Teams become more efficient as there are no handoffs or waiting periods involved. The knowledge and insights from all disciplines are brought in early in the process.


2) Create small, dedicated teams.

There should not be more than 10 people in a team. And if possible, they should all be dedicated to the same project and based in the same office.

Reason? Smaller teams tend to have better communication. And if they are given the same project, they can share their goals and priorities with each other. Their relationships can strengthen even more if they work in the same location. Plus it’s easier to keep a tab on their project status or any changes.


3) Measure your progress.

Don’t focus on features and services. Focus on the goals that they are meant to achieve. Every goal should be measurable.

Reason? If you only focus on features and services, then you are assuming that they will definitely work in the market. By focusing on goals and the progress made towards them, you are able to assess a feature is worth building or not. And in case it is not performing well, you can make a sound decision about discarding or changing it.


4) Assign teams to solve problems.

Assign your teams to solve problems rather than implement given solutions or features.

Reason? When you assign a problem to a team, it has to come up with a solution on its own. This helps the team to build confidence and take ownership of the solution that they build or implement.


5) Cut out all the waste.

Anything that doesn’t add value to the ultimate solution is considered waste. And it should be cut out from the team’s process.

Reason? You want to utilize your resources effectively. You do not want your team to focus on false challenges. The sharper your focus is, the faster you can move towards your desired goals.


6) Create what is necessary.   

Create only those design deliverables that are necessary to move the team forward. Avoid creating a stack of untested and unimplemented design ideas.

Reason? You do not want to slow down your speed of delivery by unnecessarily creating ideas that have not been validated. It’s a waste of time and resources.


7) Learn from your users early on.

If you want to find out what your users are doing with your product, you must start engaging with them during the design and development process.

Reason? If you are regularly in touch with your users, you can validate your ideas much faster. Only your users can tell you whether you are building a product they actually need.


8) Get out of the building.

Gone are the days when user needs were determined in meeting rooms. Now you need to get out of your office building and go to the marketplace to determine the problems your users are facing. The success of your product or service can only be determined by your users.

Reason? Before you spend a lot of time and resources on your idea, you must get feedback from your users to validate what you are building. Do they really need what you are building? The earlier you know what they want, the less time you will waste building something that they don’t need.


9) Encourage the team to learn collectively.

It is essential for a team to collectively develop a deep understanding of its product and users.

Reason? If the team understands its project thoroughly, the less it has to depend on heavy documentation or debrief conversations to move forward in its work.


10) Avoid creating rockstars in your team.

The team must work together without following any experts or rockstars for better collaboration and unity.

Reason? If team members start aspiring to acquire a higher status within the team, they stop sharing their knowledge and often develop big egos. This leads to poor collaboration and dirty office politics.


11) Make your work public.

Use whiteboards, sticky notes or whatever it takes to display your work in progress to your teammates, colleagues and customers.

Reason? This allows transparency and better cross-functional collaboration. Whether you are an introvert or extrovert, you can participate equally without debating or defending your ideas. You let your work speak for you on the board.  


12) Create rather than analyze.

There is definitely more value in creating the first version of your product rather than debating over its pros and cons in your meeting room.

Reason? Often the most difficult questions get answered in the market place rather than the meeting room. Your customers will help you decide whether your product is worth investing in.


13) Learn rather than scale up.

Do not scale up a business or an idea that is untested or yet to be validated. Learning is the most important step. And it comes way before scaling.

Reason? It is risky to scale up an idea that is not tested. It is potentially a waste of time and resources. You can avoid a lot of waste by testing and learning about your business idea early on.


14) You should be allowed to fail.

If you want to come up with the best possible solutions, you need to keep experimenting. You need to keep failing. And you must feel safe doing that. There should be no penalty for failure.

Reason? If you allow your employees to fail and to experiment without inducing the fear of losing their jobs, they are likely to be more creative. They are likely to take more risks and come up with innovative solutions.


15) Get out of the deliverables business

Your design process should be focused on creating design deliverables rather than neat documents with elaborate descriptions.

Reason? The time spent on creating documents could be better utilized on learning your customer needs or creating features that they actually care about. Eventually, it’s not the documents that will fulfill your customer needs. It will be the product you are building.

If you want to create a successful UX team, make sure that you embody these core elements into your process.

(Reference: Lean UX by Jeff Gothelf and Josh Seiden)

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    About the author: Narjeet works with product leaders and innovation team in helping them take an idea to customer discovery to solution and product-market-fit. He helps companies in Lean experimentation, Design Sprints, Agile product development and Growth Hacking. He is passionate about digital healthcare - because that's where his digital skills can make maximum impact.

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